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CSU (wink, wink) experiencing visits from ‘mystery creature’

Photo by Curt Yeomans: Clayton State University staff members were “shocked” to see a “mystery creature” lurking around the school’s residence facility, on Friday. There have, recently, been several sightings of the creature, which may be related to the school’s athletic mascot.

Photo by Curt Yeomans: Clayton State University staff members were “shocked” to see a “mystery creature” lurking around the school’s residence facility, on Friday. There have, recently, been several sightings of the creature, which may be related to the school’s athletic mascot.

A strange, man-sized, somewhat-amphibious, “mystery creature” has been roaming around Clayton State University’s main campus, in recent weeks, a school spokesman confirmed on Friday.

University Spokesman John Shiffert said there have been reports from employees that something — it is not exactly clear what — has been spotted in the school’s Swan Lake, in Morrow, as well as several facilities frequented by Clayton State students. It’s mainly been fleeting glimpses. Just a tail here, and a claw there, but it certainly has generated some buzz around campus.

Has the university’s mascot, Loch — already its own unique “species” and a native of Swan Lake — mutated into something new?

“There’s something lurking around on campus, but we’re not positive what it might be,” Shiffert said.

School officials are estimating that this newly discovered campus resident will be like Loch and find itself attracted to Clayton State athletic events, according to Shiffert. He said the creature is, therefore, expected to finally make its presence known to the entire world during the Homecoming Basketball doubleheader, on Feb. 18, at the school’s Athletic Center — the biggest athletic event on the university’s horizon. It may also appear during an on-campus homecoming pep rally, expected to be held on Feb. 17.

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Special photo: The “mystery creature” at Clayton State University is seen in this “undercover” photograph, swimming with the swans, in the school’s Swan Lake, earlier this week. Can this be a new relative of Loch, the school’s athletic mascot?

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Photo by Curt Yeomans: The “mystery creature” that has been lurking in the shadows at Clayton State University in recent weeks is seen in this “undercover” photograph making a slam dunk at the gymnasium, Friday. Could this be the next evolutionary step for Loch, the school’s athletic mascot?

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Photo by Curt Yeomans: Ben Hopkins (left), president of the Clayton State University Alumni Association, discusses sightings of a “mysterious creature” on campus with Dotty Bumbalough, a receptionist at the school’s Student Activity Center, on Friday.

The university’s spokesman said a member of his staff caught a picture of the mystery creature, swimming in Swan Lake in September 2009, but he added that Christopher Kodani, a biology professor at the school, pronounced it to be a large grass carp. Kodani is an expert in aquatic biology, according to Shiffert.

But, the creature was photographed again, earlier this week, the spokesman said, which is throwing the carp theory into serious doubt. The new black-and-white image, captured by Clayton State photographer Erin Fender, somewhat resembles the famous black-and-white picture of Scotland’s Lochness Monster, with the hump of its back arching out of the water in Swan Lake, behind a trio of swans.

“It’s something a lot bigger, and a lot more amphibious [than a grass carp],” Shiffert said. “We showed it [the photo] to Dr. Kodani, and he said ‘Ah, this is something different.’ He thinks its a new Loch.”

But it is does not resemble the current Loch seen at Clayton State athletic events. The Loch known to many students resembles a dragon, and while sightings of this new Loch amount to mere glimpses at this point, it seems to look more like a giant, sinister reptile.

A reporter caught only a few fleeting glimpses of this potential leap forward in the Loch evolutionary chain. It had bulging muscles, sharp teeth, ferocious eyes and small, triangular plates running down its back. It walked on its hind legs.

Some Clayton State staff members reacted with gasps and looks of shock on Friday, after they caught glimpses of this possible new Loch, while it made its way around parts of the main campus. Some simply marveled at it.

“It looks sporty and athletic,” said Carolina Amero, the university’s assistant vice president of auxiliary and administrative services, as she “chased” it across campus.

Dotty Bumbalough, a receptionist at the Student Activities Center, waxed poetic about past Lochs after she saw this new creature. “I remember the first Loch,” she said. “Everybody used to ask ‘Is that Barney [the Dinosaur]?’”

The spokesperson also said school officials believe the appearance of this new Loch may force the current Loch off campus for good. The current Loch, who has been attending Clayton State athletic events for much of the last decade, is actually the third in a line of Lochs, who first appeared on campus shortly after the creation of the athletic department in 1991.

“We have never had two Lochs on campus at the same time, before,” Shiffert said.

Kodani theorized, in a written statement released by the university, that reasons for the new creature suddenly appearing on campus could include a hunger for food served by the Lakeside dining Hall, in the school’s James M. Baker University Center, or it could need medical attention from University Health Services.

“Maybe the reptilian Loch even evolved from the swans and geese — an example of how ancient, hidden genes sometimes express themselves, as is seen in the occasional three-toed horse or the recently discovered dolphin that has hind legs!” Kodani exclaimed in a written statement.

Shiffert suggested a foreign exchange student could have brought it to Morrow, possibly from Japan. “It might be related to Godzilla,” he said. “We do have a fair number of international students on campus, and you never know.”

He also added: “There is absolutely no reason to believe it is in anyway dangerous ... Our past experiences with Lochs have shown them to be very friendly, and tremendous Clayton State athletic supporters.”

The university spokesman said anyone who captures a photograph of this potential Loch on campus is asked to e-mail it to lochsightings@clayton.edu, and he added that he will regularly release new information about the creature, as it becomes available.